A survivor of child trafficking and child labor, James Kofi Annan established Challenging Heights in 2003 to provide education and support for children who have returned from slavery and horrific forms of child labor. Now age 37, Annan leads Challenging Heights as president. From the age of six through 13, he worked as a child fisherman in more than 20 villages. After escaping slavery as an illiterate teenager, he befriended kindergartners and used their schoolbooks to teach himself to read and write. Despite severe poverty and abuse, he rose to become a university graduate and now holds a Master’s degree. He eventually became a manager at Barclays Bank of Ghana, but resigned in 2007 to promote the mission of Challenging Heights full-time. More information on James Kofi Annan is available on the Challenging Heights website.
Challenging Heights was founded to help give Ghanaian youth a secured, protected, and dignified future by promoting their rights, education, and health. The organization rescues children from slavery and provides education to those who have returned from horrific forms of child labor. Through education, economic empowerment and community mobilization, Challenging Heights works with at-risk and poor families to explain the dangers of child trafficking and address the root cause of slavery. The program also helps families improve their income levels, allowing their children to attend school. Challenging Heights provides educational support for survivors of child labor and other children in the most impoverished communities of Ghana. More than 400 children between the ages of four and 15 attend the Challenging Heights School. Approximately 50 of them would have been subjected to child labor had they not been rescued by the organization.